Return to Transcripts main page


Post-Debate Analysis; Interview With Michele Bachmann

Aired September 12, 2011 - 21:50   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, good evening, everyone. Wolf, thank you very much. Welcome to a special edition of AC 360. The CNN Tea Party Republican debate has just wrapped up in Tampa, Florida. Eight GOP hopefuls facing off on jobs, immigration, health care.

It got contentious early on, with two perceived front-runners, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, facing off on Social Security. Let's get right to it. Joining us live tonight, "THE SITUATION ROOM's" Wolf Blitzer, who has moderated tonight's debate, John King, host of "JOHN KING USA," CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, CNN contributor Erik Erickson, editor in chief of, CNN political contributor Paul Begala, Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary for President George W. Bush, and CNN political analyst Roland Martin.

Wolf Blitzer, in your opinion, was there a clear winner tonight?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, Anderson. Hi, I'm over here, I don't know if you can see me. It's a little exciting here on the stage right now. You know what, we're going to let the folks out there think -- decide if there were winners or losers. I was pleased because I thought we got to some really substantive issues.

We got to some real disagreements by these candidates. And I think folks emerged from this debate a little more knowledgeable about these eight candidates than they did going in to the debate.

By in large, I was pleased with what we heard and I was pleased with the opportunity we gave these candidates and, through CNN, the American public to have a better appreciation of these eight Republican candidates, one of whom almost certainly is going to be the Republican nominee, and one of whom might even be the president of the United States, Anderson.

MORGAN: John King, in your opinion, some of the key moments tonight or a clear winner?


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, let me start with this. I think one of the key dynamics tonight was Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann had what many in the party thought had to be a make or break night. Our June debate, remember, she skyrocketed in popularity and fund-raising. She's dropped a bit in the polls of late, in large part because of Governor Perry's entrance into the race.

The congresswoman is with me. Congresswoman, flat out tonight, you seemed more aggressive, and you seemed wanting every opportunity you could have to strip away some of Governor Perry's record, that you think is not consistent with especially Tea Party conservatives. Is that fair?

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I would have loved is an opportunity to answer every question that came out tonight, because every question was a good, worthwhile question. And, of course, there's limited time, and I would have loved to have answered every one.

It was a great forum tonight. To be here with the Tea Party was like being at home.

KING: Let's come back to the point, though. You said, especially of the HPV vaccination issue in Texas, violated liberty?

BACHMANN: Yes, of course it violates liberty, when you have innocent little 12-year-old girls that are being forced to have a government injection into their body. This is a liberty interest that violates the most deepest personal part of a little child. And it violates the parental rights, because what we understand is, again, this was an executive order that mandated that every little 12-year- old girl had to have this vaccination. And then you'd have to opt out.

Well, parents don't necessarily have the backing -- have the information, the backing to know to opt out. This should be an opt in. This is a clearly an example of overreach for government. Again, the governor admitted that this was a big mistake.

The problem is, again, a little girl doesn't get a do over. Once they have that vaccination in their body, once it causes its damage, that little girl doesn't have a chance to go back. So you can't just say you're sorry. When you're president of the United States, you don't get a mulligan. You don't get a do over.

You have to get it right the first time. I have a core sense of conviction about these issues. And I never would have done that to innocent little 12-year-old girls.

KING: Did he satisfy you with his answer?

BACHMANN: No, he didn't, because it's not enough not enough just to say I'm sorry, I was wrong. You have to get it right the first time. That's why we have to have a president who understands from the get go what -- with a core sense of conviction, what policies will work for the United States and what won't.

MORGAN: Coming into this debate, you had dropped in our polling seven percent, if Sarah Palin's not in the race, down to four percent if Governor Palin were to get into the race. Why do you think that happened? Let me add this to the question: in that same poll, Governor Perry was way ahead. And Republicans -- 42 percent -- by 42 percent, Republicans way higher than everybody else, Republicans who believe he's the most electable candidate. He would be the strongest debater against Barack Obama. Do you think that changed tonight?

BACHMANN: I think, day by day, there are snapshots that are taken of the campaign. And one thing people need to remember is, when the vote was taken from the American people in Iowa, I won the straw poll. I'm the candidate who won. When the voters had --

KING: Mike Huckabee won last time, and he was not the nominee. I know it's a big vote for you. But it's not necessarily representative of what happens in the end, if you look back over the years.

BACHMANN: But that's the point. We're not at the end. This is a marathon. If you look at the race four years ago, John McCain was in fourth place. Rudy Giuliani was in the lead. Fred Thompson was in the lead. These things change. And that's why these debates are so important.

And that's why I thank CNN for hosting this debate, because I think it's important that the voters get a chance to take a measure of the candidate.

KING: Congresswoman, thank you for your time post debate. We'll see you again on the trail. Thank you very much.

Anderson, as we toss it back, you asked me at the beginning what I thought were the most interesting dynamics. I do think Congresswoman Bachman knew she had quite a lot to prove tonight. And she came out quite aggressive. She knew she needed to put some dents into Governor Perry is she was to get some of that Tea Party, conservative grassroots support she has lost in recent weeks.

That was her goal. One last point, I would also think Speaker Gingrich, Senator Santorum also turned in strong, spirited performances tonight. The question has been -- they've been pretty strong in some of the past debates and unable to move the numbers. Is the Republican electorate looking at this race as Perry/Romney, maybe Bachmann? Or is it willing to have a more open mind and let some of these more struggling candidates into the conversation, into their consideration?

I think that's one of the big questions we'll have looking at the polling data, as we leave this debate and move into the future debates.

COOPER: John, thanks very much. David Gergen, clearly to Gingrich, Santorum, Herman Cain got some of the probably louder applause lines of the night. That does not necessarily translate, though, into any bump in the polls. Clearly, a lot of folks were gunning -- were looking to try to take on Perry. Did they succeed? Did they succeed maybe in lessening his poll numbers a little bit? Certainly we saw that from Mitt Romney. We saw that from Santorum. We saw that from Michele Bachmann.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think so, Anderson. I will tell you that this hall is crackling with excitement. These Tea Partiers loved this debate. They like the fact that the other candidates had a chance to get in more evenly. But just as they loved it, there were many, judging from what's been on Twitter tonight, who were horrified. So the country is still very divided about this.

In terms of the dynamics of this race within the Republicans, there's no question that Romney and Perry will remain the front- runners. Romney has a better command of the facts. He's a more practiced debates, gave one of the best answers of his entire campaign when he was asked how he would balance the budget.

But Perry has the command presence. And even though people took shots at him, as you said, he deflected reasonably well. He came in and he was a better debater. He was more even this time.

He talks a lot of Texas. He's going to need to move beyond Texas to get a national focus. And he clearly is going to have to beef himself up on the international side. But I would have to tell you, I think Rick Perry walked in here as the front-runner tonight and I imagine he walked out as the front-runner.